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94 Year-Old Artist Has Participated In The Ann Arbor Art Fair Since It First Began

Jul 19, 2017

J.T. Abernathy
Credit Lisa Barry / 89.1 WEMU

J.T. Abernathy has been a potter for 71 years.  The 94 year-old Ann Arbor man hasn't missed an Ann Arbor Art Fair since it first began in 1960.  I visited him at the Ann Arbor Potters Guild to talk to him about his work and his Art Fair memories.


Abernathy molds his latest clay pot.
Credit Lisa Barry / 89.1 WEMU

Abernathy grew up in eastern Oklahoma and, after World War II, came to Ann Arbor in 1951 to teach art at the University of Michigan.  After several years of doing that, he took a pottery class and decided that was his life’s calling, setting up his own studio on State Street in Ann Arbor.

Abernathy works out of the nonprofit Potters Guild in Ann Arbor, and, even though his vision is very poor at 94, he is still making pottery.

Abernathy has mentored pottery makers and has had several apprentices over the years and loves to show how it all works.       

About 15 members of the Ann Arbor Potters Guild will sell their work at the Ann Arbor Art Fair in a booth in front of Hill Auditorium.

Abernathy says the Ann Arbor art fair has changed a great deal in its 58 years and remembers what it was like when it first began in 1960.

Abernathy’s wife, Teri Adams-Abernathy, is a poet turned artist and says she first met him 40 years ago when he came to court her roommate.  And she says she’s learned a lot by living with an artist for some 40 years.

So for the 58th year, J.T. Abernathy of Ann Arbor will pack up his pots and dishes and pottery creations and show and sell his work at the Ann Arbor Art Fair.  But, for him, it’s like an art world reunion.

You can see Mr. Abernathy at work by watching the video below.

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu